President Donald Trump defended his tariff-heavy trade policy on Thursday, saying it creates deals and brings back jobs — despite criticism from lawmakers in his own party who have asked him to back off.
During a speech at Hot Strip Mill in Granite City, Illinois, the president touted the steel and aluminum tariffs he recently imposed on other nations, citing them as the reason why the mill, which had closed in December, was reopened.
“This is the time to straighten out the worst trade deals ever made by any country on Earth, ever, in history,” Trump said during his speech. “These deals were made by people — I don’t know if they didn’t understand or if they didn’t care or if they didn’t, frankly, love our country — but we have the worst trade deals ever made in history. But now they’re becoming good again.”
Several Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the president‘s trade policy, including some of the party’s top leaders, out of concern that the policy could hurt American workers.
Some Republicans have also criticized Trump for having to provide $12 billion in one-time aid to farmers as a result of the tariffs.
The speech was a change in tone from the past several months, as the president has changed policies and statements on different issues.
Following a backlash against his “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which resulted in migrant children and parents being separated at the southern border, Trump signed an executive order to stop the separation.
Most recently, the White House walked back comments the president made last week during a news conference with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in which he said he did not believe that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. The statement contradicted findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that Moscow did meddle in the election.
Thursday’s speech also came a day after Trump announced that the U.S. would pause plans to impose new tariffs on the European Union. The deal was struck after the president met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the White House.
The U.S. and the EU will begin negotiations to eliminate tariffs on all non-auto industrial goods, increase cooperation on energy purchases and work together to reform the World Trade Organization, the leaders announced Wednesday.
In Illinois on Thursday, the president called it a “breakthrough agreement” and said the European Union understood that the barriers and taxes it had imposed on the U.S. were “wrong.”
Trump’s main attack, however, was on China, on which his administration already has imposed many tariffs and, in the past week, has threatened with new levies. The president criticized China’s tariffs on U.S. automobiles and also said the country is trying to “hurt the American farmer.”
He also implied that China is trying to make his administration look bad in an attempt to get Democrats elected.
“China tried to hurt the American farmer because that way they were going to hurt me,” the president said Thursday. “And that way you would go in November and you would vote for people that don’t want borders, they don’t care about crime, they want to get rid of ICE: Democrats,” he said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Trump did not back down, though, from his trade policies and continued to criticize past American policies, saying the U.S. was losing $817 billion a year because of trade and adding that if the United States didn’t trade, “we’d save a hell of a lot of money.”
“Our leaders said the only choice was economic surrender. They surrendered,” Trump said of past trade deals in general.
He added that his position on tariffs was criticized by Washington but that now the U.S. was “having the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country.”
“We’re here today because America never surrenders,” he said. “We don’t wave the white flag. We only wave the flag that we love. It’s called red, white and blue, and it’s beautiful.”